I can come to your library, book club meeting, or conference to talk about how to help your readers find their next good read. Click here for more information including RA for All's EDI Statement.

Tuesday, April 30, 2024

How to Fight Book Bans in 2024: A Practical Guide from Book Riot

As I have mentioned many times here on the blog, Kelly Jensen is doing the hard work chronicling book censorship in America. 

Click on the "Censorship" button below or here to read every thing Jensen and the Book Riot staff have on the topic. I cannot stress enough how important this coverage is both because no one else in the entire US is doing as much work as Jensen to document it all and her advice on what to do is practical and will actually help. 

Case in point, late last week she presented in her words, "the most basic, boiled-down primer for how to fight book bans in 2024. It’s short, sweet, and to the point."

Click here to read it or see the intro with a link to more below, use her advice, and pass it on to your patrons so that you can be part of the solution. Stop being afraid of drawing attention to yourself and start actively trying to help us all regain control and stop this horror novel we are currently living in when it comes to censorship. 


How to Fight Book Bans in 2024: Book Censorship News, April 26, 2024

This content contains affiliate links. When you buy through these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

In October 2021, I put together the first comprehensive guide to fighting book bans and challenges at Book Riot during the rising wave of censorship. Despite linking to this again and again and despite it being the foundation from which Book Riot put together an entire ebook last February—How to Fight Book Bans and Censorship—and despite the fact that we are absolutely flooded with “how to” resources everywhere, I’m still asked for more. So let’s do just that. Here’s the most basic, boiled-down primer for how to fight book bans in 2024. It’s short, sweet, and to the point.

Click here to read the full article.

Monday, April 29, 2024

What I'm Reading: Chuck Tingle and Josh Malerman

The May 2024 issue of Booklists has my reviews of the upcoming Chuck Tingle and Josh Malerman novels. Both require that you pre-order them now. They will have wide and happy audiences.

Reminder, you can find the reviews in Booklist or at Booklist Online but below you can find my draft reviews with bonus info and my three words.

But FYI: Both of these books are MUST BUYS!

First, the STAR review:

Bury Your Gays

By Chuck Tingle

July 2024. 304p. Tor Nightfire, $26.99 (9781250874658)
First published May 1, 2024 (Booklist).

Self-publishing sensation, Tingle (Camp Damascus) burst onto the traditional publishing scene with one of the best books of 2023, but his follow up is even better. Misha, a semi-closeted, horror screenwriter has built quite a career for himself over the last two decades, but when asked to kill off the female leads of his popular show right after they kiss, he refuses. However, the algorithm, which rules Hollywood, demands he obey, or else. With the help of his best friend and boyfriend, Misha becomes the unlikely hero of not only his own story, but also that of the entire world, endangered by a powerful, insidious evil. Tingle’s effortless narrative flow is awe-inspiring. He begins with an uneasy tone that steadily builds to full on existential terror, along the way taking readers on a highly entertaining fast paced ride, filled with thought-provoking satire, original monsters, and some of the most realistic characters they will encounter on any page, all to prove that love is real and Horror itself is at its core, a celebration of life. A book for anyone who likes the immersive, high-stakes Thrillers of Blake Crouch or Horror novels about making movies like Horror Movie by Paul Tremblay or A Light Most Hateful by HaileyPiper.

Three Words That Describe this Book: perfectly paced, creepy becomes terrifying, a celebration of life Further Appeal: Here are more notes from when I was reading and writing the review. As you will see, I have many many notes. This book has so much in it and all fit was a jot to read and discover, but, alas, in print, I only get 200 words:

  • I saw a reviewer who was confused by the screenplay excerpts included. I thought they were perfect, Helped to introduce more unease and disorientation-- ratchet it up. And they ended up being important to the storytelling, the twists, and the overall story; they added necessary detail and framing by showing not telling us what is going on. It also worked because the entire novel is about storytelling and writing screenplays. The pay off is PERFECT for it as well. It is there to knock you off a bit as a reader on purpose.
  • This book is perfectly paced, perfectly built– every detail matters– fun, creepy, existentially terrifying, but also ultimately a celebration of life.
  • I know Tingle's motto is-- Love is real-- and it is here but it expands to be a celebration of life itself. No one does relationships better in print than Tingle. From love to friendship to mentorship-- he is able to capture on the page the real feelings of true interactions between people and what they mean to each other with depth, care, and truth.
  • I am struggling to figure out how much to share. I know reviewers will give spoilers. But I will say that post writer and actor strike issues of AI and more are clearly in this book-- and wow are they chillingly real.
  • ½ way exactly, the twist. He is an expert at crafting a story and I was not surprised to look up at the page count when the whole story changed and see it was the middle. Speaking of, prepare to read this in 2 sittings. If you have time 1, but I did two. 
  • No detail is left unaddressed. Every detail matters. Creepy turns to terrifying. Effortless flow. 
  • Misha is in a race against time, fighting monsters from his past, both human and supernatural. There are very real lives at stake here.
  • How does he write these perfect books that are super entertaining with amazing characters and nuanced, realistic relationships, thought provoking about serious issues, existentially terrifying and yet ultimately encased in love.
  • This is a book about the creation of art as well, and its effect on all that it ultimately touches.
  • Side note: I finished this book during the 2024 Oscar ceremony telecast; there is a crucial extended scene toward the end of the book at that event.

Further Readalikes: The above mentions of Horror Movie by Paul Tremblay and A Light Most Hateful by Hailey Piper are perfect because if you smooshed them together, that is this book,. A story about creating stories– especially screenplays Ala the Tremblay, but also with a Weird, SF element and the excellent relationships of Piper. It really is those two books smooshed together in terms of tone, theme, storytelling and over all message. And every detail matters in all 3 books. It is spectacular to watch it all come together as a reader. And it is done in a way that seems effortless, that it flows naturally, but of course, that was very hard for these authors to achieve and takes great care and skill. If you like Chuck Tingle, please read A Light Most Hateful by Hailey Piper, you will love it, I would be remiss to mention there were definitely Clive Barker vibes here. LA is a character in the story. If you want more of that read the classic, Coldheart Canyon. This book is heavily meta like Looking Glass Sound by Catriona Ward, but with like 3 fewer layers and a faster pace. This is not a judgment on either book. I gave both stars. The similarity here is in the focus on the fact that the power of the story is held by the writer and how what the writer includes or excludes matters. One is more methodically paced on purpose and the other is fast paced. Both are gems.

Second, the upcoming novel from Josh Malerman.

Incidents Around the House
By Josh Malerman

June 2024. 384p. Del Rey, $28 (9780593723128)
First published May 1, 2024 (Booklist).

Malerman [Spin a Black Yarn] is back with a new novel that begins uneasily and relentlessly builds to full-out, feel it in your gut terrifying. Eight year-old Bela, the sole narrator, lives in suburban Detroit with her Mommy, Daddo, and “Other Mommy,” a being who lives in her closet, but comes out frequently to ask the young girl, “Can I go inside your heart?” Readers enter as “Other Mommy” is losing patience with Bela, getting more bold, even leaving the house to remind Bela that she must say yes, and soon, or else. Bela immediately grabs readers’ attention and pulls them into her disquieting world, while Malerman finds effective ways to add context from the adults’ points of view without sacrificing Bela’s authenticity or the fast pace. Readers will be ensnared for the duration, wanting to look away or take a break from the unceasing onslaught, but they cannot because “Other Mommy” will follow readers, even off the page, not allowing anyone to escape. For fans of Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage and Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt. 

Three Word That Describe This Book: Child POV [exclusive], chilling, relentless

Further appeal: My review and the publisher summary give you all that I feel safe enough to say about this book. It is a story you have to experience. It is a full body fear situation. You will scream at the page like a movie. You will scream and the characters from Bela-- who is captivating-- and the adults. 

This book is NOT for the faint of heart. It is intense and bleak but quite a ride. 

Some may not love the exclusive child POV, but in this case, the book won'r work without Malerman committing to it. Bela is just aware enough to that the "Other Mommy" is bad, but also she sees enough to know that things aren't great at home too. Details are filled in by her troubled parents venting their feelings to her while they think she is asleep. 

But to say more than the overall tone and the POV is to ruin the experience of reading this. 

Further Readalikes: The entire thing reminded me of an old school Paperbacks from Hell but with a modern sensibility. I think that is the easiest was to book talk this book. Right away your readers will know exactly who it if for. 

To help library workers, who are my review's main audience I referenced 2 titles that would most easily help them understand who this is for (not that they need help getting Malerman books off the shelf and into readers' hands. The Baby Teeth rec is for the narration and content and the HEX comp is to hint at the bleakness and also some of the appearances of the "monster" scenes are similar.

A tangential rec is A Head Full of Ghosts, but that one is more about making the reader think about what they read and if it is real or not while in this Malerman novel, "Other Mommy" is a real monster. This is not in Bela's head. Instead, Malerman is out there going for the readers' gut, to make them feel the fear in the bodies. If you are still thinking about it after, it is because you are having nightmares-- which is a valid response.

Friday, April 26, 2024

Booklist's Annual Mystery and Thriller Spotlight is Now LIVE!

The May 1 issue of Booklist is always one of the best of the year. It's focused on Crime Fiction and this year it also has a spotlight on True Crime.

I do have two big name reviews in this issue, but I will post them on Monday. Today I want to point you to all of the amazing RA resources that are included in this issue and all focused on titles that have some of the most checkouts at your library.

However, before I get to those details, please remember that every issue of Booklist is a spotlight on something. That spotlight means there are lists of the top books in those categories, for all ages of readers-- including audio-- all available right at your fingertips. That is not even considering that there are extra reviews of upcoming books for said spotlight in that issue as well.

And, to make this RA rich information even more accesible, Booklist now has a print magazine-- Booklist Reader. It is similar to Book Page in terms of how you distribute it to your patrons, but made by librarians for librarians, sharing their most useful RA material with your patrons, directly.

Back to the spotlight articles and lists though. They are always available for free-- both the current and backlist lists. So they are a literal treasure trove of vetted best titles in the categories that you, the library worker, most care about. Every title is annotated as well, so you have information about the book to share with its best reader immediately.

Here are the lists and articles for this current spotlight with 2 years of backlist access include by me to help you add to your collections and help readers:

Thursday, April 25, 2024

Celebrate Halfway to Halloween With a New Why I Love Horror Essay and Giveaway.

On of my favorite display ideas is to spend the last week or so of April reminding people that it is also "Halfway to Halloween." In the third edition of my book, I go hard on encouraging all libraries to celebrate this "second Halloween" and one of my biggest arguments to do so is because the film industry has been doing this for the last 10 years. Think about it. How many Horror movies now come out in April? There are a lot out right now, and they are dominating the box office. 

People love Horror all year long, but even the casual fans start to crave more of it the further we get away from Halloween and the marketing machine that pushes it for 31 days. They often don't know where to look though. The "halfway" mark, is a great time to reuse your displays and content from the most previous October to promote it again. And calling it "Halfway to Halloween," is fun and attention grabbing.

Even some bookstores are celebrating this weekend. See, I have been talking about this since 2010 and others are finally catching on.

Today to highlight Halfway to Halloween I want to direct you to the work I do all year long to help you help your patrons find Horror over on RA for All: Horror. It is a one stop shop for all of your Horror for Libraries needs. But in particular there are 2 long running series that I am promoting today.

The first is my weekly giveaway of Horror titles, which today features 2 finished copied of Ink Vine by Elizabeth Broadbent. My goal with this series is series is three fold. First, I am giving away the physical ARCs of the books I have formally reviewed in Booklist or Library Journal. Often these are many of the "big name" authors. Once I have read them, I do not need them anymore. I am paying it forward and passing them on. Second, I offer smaller press titles and/or authors who cannot get me their books in time for a more traditional review the chance to get some space to promote their work for my library audience through a giveaway. I only include titles I believe are good for a general public library audience. They are not reviewed simply because I did not have the time (I cannot formally review every book) or more often because they could not get their book to me in time for our far in advance journal deadlines. 

When people enter the weekly giveaway, they stay entered until they win. There is no need to reenter. 

Third, the giveaways overtime then further as a resource to learn about new and upcoming titles that are worth your attention, even if you do not win. And, because they are all tagged "giveaway," you can pull up 4 years worth of titles in reverse chronological order. That tag alone serves as a repository of backlist titles you could be suggesting to your patrons-- with comments from me on who the best reader for each book is-- all from the last 4 years. 

If you are interested in being part of the weekly #HorrorForLibraries giveaway this week and going forward, visit the post with this week's giveaway to see how you can enter. 

The other series I am proud to offer on RA for All: Horror is my Why I Love Horror guest essays featuring authors answering that prompt, sharing why they are fans and practitioners of the genre. It offers authors a chance to speak directly to readers, sharing their adoration for the genre. This showcases a variety of reasons why someone would love horror themselves. As a resource it gives you a peek into the mind of an author whose books you should carry and offers you an example of a reader (that author) who likes Horror as well.

I have authors from household names to up and comers all indexed with the tag "Why I Love Horror" over on the Horror blog.

To celebrate Halfway to Halloween, I invited the author of today's giveaway book, Elizabeth Broadbent, to join the Why I love Horror family. Please see her essay below. But first, remember Horror is a great choice all year long, but especially now as we are Halfway to Halloween.

Why I Love Horror
by Elizabeth Broadbent

I was nine years old when I read Firestarter. I remember this for two reasons: It was my first Stephen King book, and I was only a few months older than Charlie. I can still picture the battered paperback, a movie tie-in and garage sale find. In the horror community, especially among older Millennials, you’ll often hear of kids reading brutally violent Stephen King, but nine is precocious even among that crowd. More focused on Charlie than Andy, I certainly skipped some of the more adult-leaning parts; despite that, I found the book more compelling than the standard Anne of Green Gables fare which passed as children’s lit in those days. Once we outgrew Beverly Cleary and tore through Judy Bloom, there was precious little left, especially for a kid who bought her books with quarters scrounged from the living room couch.

Years later, of course I’m appalled. Where were my parents? Who lets their nine-year-old read Stephen King? The answers to those questions explain why I found King so riveting in the first place. I was a lonely child, scapegoated by a narcissistic mother, alternately terrorized and ignored by an alcoholic father; my neurodivergence only exacerbated the abuse. Against that singular bleakness, Firestarter, Carrie, and even The Eyes of the Dragon felt more authentic than Pollyanna. Other books sugarcoated the world, but horror told the truth. I believed it as an all-too-young reader. Decades later, I believe it as a writer.

By mixing the speculative with the all-too-human monsters, horror shows us people at both their most depraved and most beautiful. I read The Prince of Tides when I was eleven—though it’s not generally considered such, I’d mark it a crucial entry point to the Southern Gothic genre. Tragic knight-in-shining armor Luke Wingo saves his brother, mother, and sister; the twin obsessions of Callanwolde for Lila and Lila for acceptance define the novel’s sickest villainy. There’s a full sweep of human experience there; I loved the book for that, but I also loved it for the prose. My house had no Shakespeare, no poetry. Until I found Conroy, I was unaware that people put words together that way. When I read him, I knew I wanted to do it myself.

I stayed in love with “acceptable” horror despite the academy’s insistence on devaluing it. I found horror that sang, from Jane Eyre to Moby-Dick, Flannery O’Connor to William Faulkner. In particular, the gothic caught me, that wicked mixture of creeping fear, constant threat, and intrusion of the past. Horror, but especially gothic horror, seemed to see the world in a way that felt authentic but safe, realistic but distant.

As I turned more and more to writing, I found my models there. Faulkner exhorts us to “tell about the South,” impossible without its tangle of racism and history, patriarchy and prejudice. Most great Southern literature is horror—how could it be anything but? An old South Carolina story alleges that when the Dalai Lama flew over the state, he was silent for a long time. “So much blood on the land,” he said finally. When we confront the truth, we Southern writers confront that blood, that systemic oppression, be it racial or sexual or classist, and often all three. My master’s thesis was Southern Gothic. We write what we know.

When I turned again to fiction after a career in journalism, horror snagged me once more. South Carolina lives and breathes high gothic drama; witness the Murdaugh clan, one of my final and favorite nonfiction subjects. Anyone shocked by their story never lived there; to understand the Murdaughs, you have to understand their eighty-five-year, unbroken legacy of racism, privilege, and oppression. In South Carolina, our past constantly intrudes upon the present.

That’s true for Southern literature, but it’s also the reality of adults who suffered through abusive childhoods. Like William Faulkner says, our pasts are never dead. They’re not even really past. Therapy can teach us to live with them, even help us heal, but the past never disappears, not entirely; it crowds into the present, insisting upon itself: You will never be enough. The world will hurt you. People will hurt you. I learned to see the world through horror. I see it that way still, both the best and worst of us.

The speculative element clears that lens rather than blurs it—when we keep horror at a safe distance, we can examine it more closely. That’s important for both Southerners and once-traumatized children; both groups grapple with pasts easier to see through a dark glass than a clear pane. In Ink Vine, making Emmy’s love interest otherworldly turns a microscope on the brutal spectrum of oppression, both classist and sexual. In Blood Cypress, coming in 2025 with Raw Dog Screaming Press, losing Beau Carson to a possibly supernatural force reveals both the Carson family’s dysfunction and Lila Carson’s love for her brother. When the truth is too terrible to examine, when people would refuse to engage with real-life horror, we can use the speculative to make them look long. It lets us tell the truth by telling it slant; long-hidden, trauma rises, and we can bear it.

Horror is real. It helps us answer the ultimate question—turning one last time to William Faulkner—both of the South and the hurt child. Why do they live at all? Despite our pasts, we limp on, enduring; confronting our pasts, we become whole. Horror offers truth in a world that would turn away. Couched in the gothic, we can wrestle our demons. And sometimes, if only for the moment, we can beat them.

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Show Your Patrons the Library Has Something for Every User with "Intergenerational Displays"

Last month at the PLA conference, on the final day, I went to one of the best programs I have been to at a library conference.  I wrote about the program extensively here but here is the program title and description:

My final program of the day was also excellent and a perfect book end to the first. Curating Diverse Community Collections for Patron Engagement:

Much has been written about the need for diversity audits in library collections, but little follow-up has been offered to assist collection development and public service staff in creating real change. Panelists will discuss proven best practices for diversifying and curating community collections. Attendees will leave with a three-point action plan that will work for any size library, no matter the demographics of their particular community.

The slides are here and the presenters were from Cuyahoga County Public Library.

Please go to my full write up because this program was FULL of useful tips on how Cuyahoga made their library inclusive. The presenters were from across the organizational chart as well which makes a huge difference. They discussed funding and administrative issues while also making sure to emphasize the work of individuals at the branches. 

Today, I want to talk about one small thing that was mentioned during that program, something that I made a huge note about when it was said. From my write up post:

I loved that they also do a display right near the door that is always "intergenerational." no matter the topic they have books for all ages of patrons. I LOVE THIS. I tell libraries to do this and they tell me the can't. You can. Just do it. You won't go to library jail.

For years I have been telling libraries to have a display as close to the entrance as possible that showcase items for all age groups in one place. So if you have "Spring" as your topic, you have books from adult fiction, nonfiction, as many genres as possible, board books, MG, YA, Graphic Novels, audio books, movies, even any gardening items people can check out. 

At the very least you should have books for all age levels on this display. So for National Poetry Month this month, you should have a display near your entrance that has poetry for all ages.

I have seen this done at an itty bitty library in rural Maryland and at my own library where we have our "Lucky Day" collection in the main lobby. That display has options for all readers on one display, right as you walk in. The one in Maryland was in the entranceway. They a huge picture of a dog and then around it, books from across their entire collection. 

What better way to show your patrons that you have a book for them....all of them, not just a book for them if they happen to go to their siloed section. When a family walks in, they can find items for all ages immediately. Often when a caregiver brings children in, they never get the time to go to their section. Even if the person who walks in does not check an item from that display out, at the very least, an intergenerational display it is showing people that their library has something for them. Isn't that the message we want to present?

Why instead are we so focused on filing everything away in places where they have to work to find them?

I know the answer, because for years we have been gatekeepers, using "rules" to make access to our materials hard. I hate this way of thinking. Instead, we should be doing as much as we can to get our items out and into people's hands. As I like to say-- your job isn't done until every single item is checked out at the same time. 

Intergenerational displays are a great way to get more books into people hands because you are showcasing that you have books for every age level. It reminds people that there is something for them in the library. It encourages them to use our entire collections because we are reminding them that we are away of our siloed spaces and while we cannot change that easily, we can highlight books on a rotating basis that remind people to check out every section of the library. 

In other words, not only do intergenerational displays show all users that the library is for them, but also, they lead to more checkouts.

And yet, people tell me all the time they aren't allowed to mix books for different age levels together. I was told this on Monday. Again, the argument is old and out dated. Too often those in charge are unwilling to rethink positions as the world changes, but we have to. Nothing stays the same. The way the library was organized and functioned in the late 1980s when I was a kid is not the way it does now. Stop with this, those are the rules, arguments. I am sorry but it used to be the rules to not let Black people in the library. We changed that rule because it was wrong. And yes, I am purposely picking an obvious change to make the person you would argue with uncomfortable.

This attitude of we can't even put a book for a kid next to a book for an adult is DUMB and against everything we preach about being "for everyone."

Intergenerational Displays as Cuyahoga has named them, are key to their vision of making the collection engaging to their community. At the branch where that speaker is in charge, they have a table that is always a display of books around a topic or display idea that has books for any reader, at any age or ability. Again, it is part of their larger mission to be community centered. It works in conjunction with the other initiatives they have started throughout their system.

If your library has a rule against doing this, I encourage you to ask why? Counter with the slides and information from PLA. Use the contact information they have provided to ask them to help you explain why intergenerational displays promote belonging and showcase the breadth of your collection the second people walk in. Use your mission statements about serving everyone to bolster your argument. Remind those in charge that there is no better way to make sure your community knows the library is for them than to simply show them that the second they enter your building with the items you have collected for them to use.

I hope this encourages you to try an intergenerational display at your library. Again, use PLA and the Cuyahoga library's example as your conversational starter at your library. And of course, tell them Becky told you to discuss it if that helps. I am always up for my readers and training attendees to blame me for bringing up touch questions. Share my contact info and encourage your managers to call me to argue. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Using Awards Lists As a RA Tool: NYPL's Young Lions Fiction Award Edition

This is part of my ongoing series on using Awards Lists as a RA tool. Click here for all posts in the series in reverse chronological order. Click here for the first post which outlines the details how to use awards lists as a RA tool.  

The New York Public Library recently announced their finalists for the You Lions Fiction Award. From the About page:

Established in 2001, The New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award is a $10,000 prize awarded each spring to a writer age 35 or younger for a novel or a collection of short stories. Each year, five young fiction writers are selected as finalists by a reading committee of Young Lions members, writers, editors, and librarians. A panel of judges selects the winner.

Founded by Ethan Hawke, Jennifer Rudolph Walsh, Rick Moody, and Hannah McFarlandand made possible by an endowment created with generous gifts from Russell Abrams, Nina Collins, Hannah and Gavin McFarland, Ethan Hawke, Stephan Loewentheil, Rick Moody, Andrea Olshan and Jennifer Rudolph Walshthis annual award recognizes the work of young authors and celebrates their accomplishments publicly, making a difference in their lives as they continue to build their careers. ​

This prize is part of the Library's Young Lions program, a membership group for people in their 20s and 30s who are committed to supporting the organization and to celebrating young writers and artists who are making an impact on this city's cultural life.

The Young Lions Fiction Award is given each spring during a special ceremony at The New York Public Library.  

Before we get to the 5 finalists this year, I want to talk about how important the finalists list is for libraries. This is a LIBRARY making sure the world knows about young voices that are worth their time. We should be collecting the books called out by this award every single year. They also link to their catalog so you can borrow each book. Love it!

Speaking of every single year, because this award is from a library, at the very top of the main page for the Young Lions Fiction Award you have access to the link to see all past winners and finalists and judges

Speaking of judges, I love that every year, the winner gets to be one of the judges for the next year. Too often when authors are asked to be a part of literary prizes, they are not asked until they are far into their careers. Who better than to judge the best book by an author 35 or under, than the last person to win it?

Back to the award's backlist though, the authors and titles are names you know. This is an award of sure bet books for the literary fiction audience, which is very popular with library patrons.

Also, let's talk money. $10,000 is enough money for some of these young writers to keep going; the difference between having to cut back on writing because the day job needs attention to cutting back on those day job hours because you have a cushion. 

Now, I know that there is no other library in America that can offer this kind of money to an emerging writing who lives in their city (well maybe LA), but I think this is an example everyone should consider. Find ways to locate the writers in your  community and raise them up. Maybe it's by having a local writers festival, maybe it is to give them a "writer in residence" tag for a year. You can buy all their books, put them on display, and have them host a few programs throughout the year. An honorarium of any size along with buying their books would be a great boost to them AND part of your mission to promote reading and life long learning. You don't need a $10,000 prize to uplift the authors in your community.

Below are this year's finalists. I know you have a few of these, but probably not all. Go back and check the last 10 years as well. Many of these titles you own and the authors have broken out. Why not make a display of authors who have been singled out as finalists over the years. People will flock to it, especially when they see a back list title or author they never got to but remember wanting to read. You look brilliant and super helpful when you remind them of good reads they would not have found on their own.

Here is the link to the landing page for the award with the finalist announcement for this year below:

The New York Public Library is excited to announce the finalists for the 24th annual Young Lions Fiction Award. The finalists are: 

Judges: A. M. Homes, Caoilinn Hughes, Zain Khalid (last year's winner)

Monday, April 22, 2024

Ask Patrons What They Didn't Find and Then Actually Listen To Their Answers

This is a repost from 2019

One of the biggest changes in RA Service from when I began until now is that we have gone from it being a transactional service like reference-- where we only worry about being asked for a title suggestion and then giving it-- to a conversation based service-- where we create a culture where books and reading are discussed, titles are shared both by staff and patrons, and ultimately books are discovered through the overall experience.

To that end, I have posted a variety of conversation starters here on the blog. These are ideas to spark conversations about books in our libraries-- both our in buildings and online.

We spend a lot of time creating conversations around the books we have. We try to book talk under the radar titles, we ask patrons to share books they have liked, or even the ones they have tried and did not enjoy. All in order to learn about how our collections are working for our patrons.

However, one thing we do not do explicitly ask them bout is what we don't have. Things they wish we did, but don't. In the wake of spending so much time thinking and talking about how we provide Reader Focused Collection Development one of the questions that kept coming up is how do we craft collections for those who don't use our libraries. How do we know what they want so that we can have it for them? So we can get them to come and use it. So that we can be for everyone, not just our regulars.

Now there is no easy answer to this question, but I think the key to starting this conversation is encapsulated in this tweet from a librarian in SC from back in April. [I am using it with her permission.]

Click here for original Tweet
Since we cannot figure out the best way to bring non users in to our buildings, if we begin by asking those who do come what they wanted but didn't find, we can start to see what we are NOT providing for everyone.

Our users already love and appreciate us. Yes, they ask for us to purchase specific things they want, but often these are new items or something on a topic or genre that is new to them. However, this larger question, which isn't about a specific title or item, just to ask them what they wanted but they couldn't;t find, this is a great way for us to start to get to the root of where we are not meeting our community's needs.

Now, as I said above, there is no easy answer to this question of how do we craft collections for the the people who aren't coming in, but I think asking our users where there are gaps in our collections, that is a great place to begin delving into this important topic.

So take Andria's advice and instead of asking if they found everything they NEEDED today, change it up and ask if there was anything they WANTED that they couldn't find. And then, here is the most important part....

....Listen to their answers. Take note of them. No matter how pie in the sky or completely undoable they seem.

Within those answers, be they super practical or way too expensive or anything in between, those answers hold the key to making our collections and services better. We have to be able to listen to what we don't have without freaking out that we already do too much and we can't be everything to everybody.

I am not saying we have to do everything our patrons ask. Rather, what I am saying is we can learn a lot more from our patrons and their needs [especially about our collections] when we ask the right questions, listen, and really ponder where the gaps are. And especially if we look at a variety of different answers to this question, put them together, and see where the commonality is. 

For example, I have a friend at a large library near me whose World Languages collection is exploding, and yet many people still don't even know they have it and keep asking why they don't have one. She realized it would probably be doing even better if they moved it from the back corner, to right up front. This would both raise its physical visibility and it will also give her room to grow it with more accurate data on who actually wants it.

That is just one small example. No matter where you work, try asking what patrons couldn't find and see what happens. Just asking them will make your patrons happy, but when you listen and take note, you have the chance to make a well reasoned change for the better too.

Friday, April 19, 2024

Using Awards Lists As a RA Tool: LA Times Book Prize Edition

This is part of my ongoing series on using Awards Lists as a RA tool. Click here for all posts in the series in reverse chronological order. Click here for the first post which outlines the details how to use awards lists as a RA tool.  

Tonight the 44th Annual LA Times Book Prizes will be given out. Click here for all of the details, including a list of finalists in 12 categories.

Of course I am parietal to the SF/FSY finalists-- 3 of which were among my favorite reads of 2023:

But the LA Times Book Prize finalists are a stacked bunch. Click here to browse all of the categories, but also here is a screen shot of what they are:

I love that these categories take how readers see books into play. You can use words like "History" and "Current Events" to have conversations with readers about what they are looking for.

Go forth and do the usual with this list (see the header if you are new to this rodeo). Remember, these are all books that came out in 2023, so they will probably be available on shelf to suggest and display. You should 100% own every single one of these titles. Hand down, no excuses. These are all titles you can own and suggest to a wide variety of readers with confidence.

This would be such a great display near the entrance of the library. Gather the fiction, nonfiction, poetry, YA, and audiobooks all together in one display. Print out something from the website to post as well. They have some great graphics. Show people the breadth of your holdings and promote a current event, with books that are ready for check out right now. They will love it, and really, it is not that much work for you to do. This is the power of using resources to help readers in a nutshell.

There is also a "History" tab for the awards which allows easy and graphically appealing access to finalists and winners in every category going back to 2011. 

Remember "best" does not have a shelf life. The titles from the last 8 years especially, are still excellent sure bet suggestions to your readers. And the conversation starter is on the page for you.. Ex: "This book was a finalist for the SciFi/Fanatsy award in 2019. You might have missed it but here you go." Remember, if it is new to your reader, you have helped them find something they could not have found without you. It does not have to be new to the world, just new to them. The backlist is our best asset. It is what we have that bookstores do not. We also have a human helping them to find the titles they might like, not an algorithm. Lean in to this. 

Back to that display near your entrance-- grab some titles from the last two years if you need help filling the display out.

One last note, the awards ceremony tonight kicks off a full weekend of the LA Times Festival of Books. I think some of it may be available online, but if not, simply looking at the schedule and panels will give you a great idea of topics and genres and books that are worth your time.

Good luck to my friends, Due, Kraus, and LaValle. I know you can't all win, but you all deserve it.